What is sewage related Litter?

Sewage related litter is a type of litter that is generated from non-organic items that are flushed down the toilet. These items include sanitary waste, dental floss, hair, paper towels and wipes, to name a few. This waste believe it or not can make its way to our oceans and be washed up on your beaches as marine litter.

The damage it causes!

Sewage related litter can get tangled in the machinery which is used to pump waste water at wastewater treatment plants causing them to break down.  This can lead to emergency wastewater overflows to the natural environment. This waste is damaging to receiving water bodies and is a danger to marine life.

But what about at home?

Sewage related litter can also be a messy problem in our homes. Flushing waste other than the 3P’s can lead to blockages in pipework, meaning toilets cannot be flushed, leading to overflows. This is a messy issue for householders, especially those with septic tanks.

What to flush?

The rule is only flush the 3P’s, pee, poo and paper (toilet paper that is). Everything else must go into the bin.

Remember that even if a product is marketed as flushable it will not break down and will still lead to issues in the wastewater network.

THINK BEFORE YOU FLUSH TOP TIP: Put a bin in your bathroom

The Dirty Dozen

Think Before You Flush ran a survey with over 1,000 people to find out more about their flushing behaviour and we compiled a list of the twelve most common items flushed down the toilet in error. We call them the Dirty Dozen.

Here are some of the common items that are flushed in error. The two thing you can do is reduce their use or throw them in the bin.


Wipes come in many forms – baby wipes, make up wipes, cleaning wipes. While they seem like paper, they do not breakdown and can lead to blockages in the pipe network. This can cause a problem for the household leading to blockages, ragging in wastewater treatment plants or end up on the beach as marine litter. We often find wipes entangled in the seaweed on our beautiful beaches.

Cotton Bud Sticks

Cotton bud sticks might look like lolly pop sticks but some brands are made of plastic and can last a very long time in the marine environment. They can also be mistaken for food by marine life.

Cotton Wool

Cotton wool is like wipes; it doesn’t break down and this can lead to blockages in the pipe network affecting households and the wastewater treatment network.

Prescription Medicine

You might think that it is a good option to flush unused and out of date medication down the toilet as a safe means to dispose of it While it is necessary to dispose of it safely, flushing it can destroy bacteria in the water system, contaminate groundwater and impact wildlife downstream. TIP: Bring out of date/unused medicine to your local pharmacy for safe disposal.

Cigarette Butts

Cigarette butts are toxic and we don’t want that ending up in our local natural environment! The filters are made from plastic and do not breakdown easily. When tossed into the environment, the harmful organic compounds they absorb (such as nicotine and heavy metals) will seep into our aquatic systems which become toxic for fish and microorganisms. If these butts end up on our beaches, they can also be ingested by marine life.

Sanitary Products

People are not always comfortable with throwing sanitary products in the bin but flushing them down the toilet can lead to problems. They can cause blockages, leach plastic into the waterways or end up washed up on our beaches and in our marine ecosystems as marine litter. There is a simple solution – always dispose of sanitary products in a bin.


Condoms probably seem small and harmless, but they can cause blockages in our septic tanks and sewage treatment plants and have traces of plastic which is an issue for water quality. Never flush condoms down the toilet.


Plasters are made from non-biodegradable plastic and can accumulate with other items in our pipes causing blockages and leading to wastewater overflows.

Dental Floss

Dental floss is not biodegradable. If it is flushed down the toilet it can wrap itself around other objects in the pipeline, making blockages bigger. It can also cause damage to machinery in the wastewater treatment plants.


Hair is a natural product, but it still cannot be flushed down the toilet.  It can cause problems as it acts like dental floss causing blockages and leading to wastewater overflows.

Disposable Nappies

Disposable nappies are made from plastic that expands when it encounters water. Nappies will instantly be caught in the u-bend of a toilet causing wastewater to backup and overflow.

Contact Lenses

Disposable contact lenses are disposable by nature but contain plastic and chemicals that while safe for the wearer, should only be disposed of in a bin and never down the toilet.